Wellcome Trust Blog

ResearchBlogging.orgChalk on a blackboard? A knife on glass? Even the thought of some of these sounds makes people squirm. In our office the topic sparked an instant discussion, everyone has an opinion as to what sounds really bother them. Unsurprisingly, fingernails on a blackboard were mentioned first, but so were nails on garage doors and teaspoons against the inside of mugs. But why do we get that spine tingling feeling with certain nasty noises for no obvious reason?

A new study reveals what we think of as the most unpleasant noises and what happens in our brains when we hear them. Researchers at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at UCL and Newcastle University, had 13 volunteers listen to 78 unpleasant sounds while in an fMRI machine. They ranked the five nastiest noises as: 

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Secondary school English teacher


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